Summary of Homo Prospectus

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Homo Prospectus book summary
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8

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Recommendation

The four authors of this dense but fascinating work offer varying perspectives on the human mind, drawing from philosophy, psychology and psychiatry. Together, Learned Optimism author Martin E. P. Seligman and professors Peter Railton, Roy F. Baumeister and Chandra Sripada argue that “prospection” – how people look toward the future – defines what it means to be human. They make an extended case integrating philosophical arguments with psychological studies in a larger biological or evolutionary context, and they illustrate their points with ample, interesting references to pop culture. The result is a worthwhile reflection on what it means to be a person. getAbstract recommends it to anyone interested in reflection and self-knowledge.

About the Authors

Martin E. P. Seligman is director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center and author of more than two dozen books, including Learned Optimism. Peter Railton is a distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan. Roy F. Baumeister is an eminent scholar and professor of psychology at Florida State University, and Chandra Sripada is an associate professor of philosophy and psychiatry at the University of Michigan.

 

Summary

A Different Name

The name Homo sapiens means “wise man,” but that’s not a good label for humanity overall. Some people may become wise with effort, but attaining wisdom isn’t easy or automatic. To gain wisdom, people must practice “prospection,” looking forward and anticipating what will come in the best, most functional way. The term for human beings should be Homo prospectus instead.

To use their resources effectively, people must plan for challenges. Anticipation gives people an edge in competition and helps them coordinate their activities. Anticipation is also an evolutionary edge. People look ahead, estimating what results different actions will cause. Any living thing must know it has to beat its competition. “In the game of life, life must win every moment of every day, while death has to win only once.”

Anticipation is central to coding information, learning and memory. Human memory is dynamic. People continually re-evaluate the past, reshaping it and giving it new weight. Anticipation is bound up with decision making. You can make better decisions by imagining what might and might not happen. Building a model and testing...


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